Everyone knows that Pope is the supreme spiritual leader of the Christians all over the world, but how is the Pope elected? Read on to find the answer. Pope is the head of the Catholic Church and revered by more than a billion Roman Catholic Christians living in different parts of the world. Pope is considered as the successor of Saint Peter, who was chosen by Jesus himself to be the rock around which Roman Catholic Church was built. A new Bishop of Rome is required to be elected upon the death of the existing pope. Pope Benedict XVII, the last Pope, vacated his seat and resigned last year. It was after a gap nearly 600 years that a Pope had resigned as most popes remain in their capacity till their death. How is the Pope elected is a question that is often asked by many people, including some Christians who are not aware of the procedure that takes place for the election of a Pope. This article takes a close look at this process.
How is the Pope Elected – the Election Process
Cardinals eligible for voting to elect the pope are summoned
To elect a new Pope upon the death (or resignation) of the current Pope, a meeting of the College of Cardinals is convened. These Cardinals are bishops of Roman Catholic Churches and they are called from various parts of the world. There are at present more than 200 Cardinals in 69 countries that have been chosen by the Pope himself at various points of time. From these Cardinals, elector cardinals are called off to elect a new Pope. The election of a new Pope is the primary responsibility of these Cardinals though they also have lots of jobs to perform in their respective Churches. The entire procedure follows the instructions that were revised by Pope John Paul II in his time. The meeting takes place behind closed doors inside Sistine Chapel as Cardinals cast their votes through secret ballot. There is a series of meetings where these Cardinals discuss the challenges faced by the Church on a global level.
Voting to elect the pope takes place after general congregation
It is after these series of meetings that the election process begins. Many people say that the Cardinals are guided by the Holy Spirit during the election process. Though there is a prohibition on campaigning for any individual, it is no secret that the election of a new Pope has become a political process these days. Cardinals remain shut away in the Vatican away from the world till they reach an agreement. They are literally locked inside a room to prevent any leakage of the vetoing process to the outside world. Any of the cardinals who leaks the news faces the threat of being excommunicated. The entire area where voting takes place is checked by security officials to make sure there are no microphones or other bugging devices. After this, the cardinals are in a world of their own and emerge out only after they have finally elected a new Pope.
Rules of voting for electing the pope
The new rules for electing a new Pope as revised by Pope John Paul II are as follows.
• The maximum number of cardinals for the election of new Pope is 120.
• Cardinals over the age of 80 cannot take part in the election.
• 2/3rd majority plus one of the votes is needed for the new Pope to be elected.
• To achieve this majority, two votes in the morning and two votes in the evening are held every day.
• If a new Pope cannot be elected through 2/3rd majority even after 12-13 days, the simple majority is considered enough to elect the Pope
Every Cardinal taking part in voting gets a rectangular ballot that carries Latin words Elligo in Summum Pontificem. He has to write the name of the individual and cast his vote below these words.
Counting of the votes is done by three scrutineers who are chosen from among the cardinals themselves.